TG4 All-Ireland Ladies JFC Rnd 2
By Larry Cooney
At Musgrave Park, Belfast
London Ladies secured their second victory in this year’s championship campaign with two points to spare over Antrim in Musgrave Park, and in doing so booked a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
But the final scoreline does not reflect the dramatic finish to this thrilling encounter at the damp West Belfast venue, where the visitors grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.
In complete contrast to their visit to Kilkenny two weeks ago, the Exiles spent much of this absorbing encounter on the backfoot.
As well as being out-muscled by a physically stronger team almost from the throw-in, were it not for the brilliance of Lisa Cafferky then London would surely have struggled to produce such an important result in their bid to contest this year’s All-Ireland final on Sunday 16 September.
The Parnells star finished with a personal tally of 2-8 and was easily the standout performer on the day. But it looked far from good for the Exiles when they trailed by five points with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
However, an unanswered 1-4 finally sealed a famous victory for Paddy Bowles’ spirited London team.
After their opening round defeat to Louth, Antrim wasted no time in making a statement against the visitors.
They were off the mark in their opening attack through Caitlin Taggart and as they pushed up on the London kick-out they fared even better in their next attack when late replacement Mariosa McGourty blasted to the net.
The visitors were well and truly rattled when two more Antrim points followed in as many minutes.
After falling 1-3 behind it became 1-4 when Cathy Carey set up Caitlin Taggart for her second point in the eighth minute.
London were already in serious trouble and unable to get the ball past midfield until Cafferky finally got possession and worked her way into a scoreable position in the ninth minute.
That inspirational score finally got London up and running. They were winning far more possession in midfield and also carving holes in the Antrim defence.
Cafferky raised another white flag three minutes later before making the all important breakthrough for London’s opening goal, set up by Rebecca Mills just a minute later, to bring the visitors right back into contention.
And after some great interplay between Fiona Morrissey and Catriona McGahan, the Antrim lead was down to a single point when Cafferky kicked her third point.
However, Antrim responded well and should have scored a second goal when Anna Finnegan ‘butchered’ a great opportunity.
London were also grateful for a fine save from their busy goalkeeper Rachel Healy who denied Cathy Carey.
But when Antrim kicked three unanswered points in as many minutes from an Aoife Taggart free, Cathy Carey and Michelle Magee they appeared to be right back in control when they led by four points with four minutes of the half remaining.
However, despite being outplayed for much of the opening period the defiant visitors finished the half with a late scoring surge with points from Cafferky and Rebecca Mills, before another fine move involving Mills and Fiona Morrissey set up Lisa Cafferky for a second London goal and a narrow half-time lead. London 2-5 Antrim 1-7.
Exchanges were even in the early part of the third quarter with London opening up a two-point lead by the 41st minute.
However, disaster struck a minute later following a defensive error when full forward Anna Finnegan scored Antrim’s second goal to put the hosts back into the lead.
That score clearly gave a lift to the Saffrons who added three unanswered points in as many minutes from Michelle Magee, Mariosa McGourty and substitute Orlaith Prenter.
And although London substitute Claire O’Sullivan scrambled a welcome point in the 48th minute, Antrim replied with another brace of scores from Prenter and McGourty to open up a five-point lead with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
Nothing less than a goal would suffice now for the Exiles and to their credit, after some great work by Avril Kilkelly, captain Catriona McGahan bundled the ball over the line with six minutes remaining (pictured above).
Amazingly the momentum had now shifted once again and after Kilkelly pointed a free, a minute later the same player then tied the scores from play with just two minutes to go.
A clearly exhausted and stunned Antrim team had no answer to London’s late surge as a pointed free from Lisa Cafferky put the visitors back into the lead for the final time.
A Rebecca Mullins point three minutes into added time sealed a remarkable victory on a final score of: London 3-13 Antrim 2-14.
Much credit must go to the spirit and fight in the London team which never gave up against their physically stronger opponents.
They had many heroines throughout aside from top scorer Lisa Cafferky, who was ably assisted by Rebecca Mills, Avril Kilkelly and Fiona Morrissey in attack.
In defence, Lorraine McNulty, Noelle Cocoman and Nicole Mulholland were all a tower of strength.
A semi-final place assured, London now take on Louth on 12 August at McGovern Park (12pm) to determine who will top Group A.
Scorers: London – Lisa Cafferky 2-8 (0-2)f, Catriona McGahan 1-0, Avril Kilkelly (0-1)f and Rebecca Mills 0-2 each and Claire O’Sullivan 0-1. Antrim – Mariosa McGourty 1-2, Anna Finnegan 1-1, Michelle Magee 0-3, Caitlin Taylor, Aoife Taggart (0-2)f, and Orlaith Prenter 0-2 each, Jenny McCavanagh and Cathy Carey 0-1 each.
London: Rachel Healy; Catherine Burnett, Ruane Hurt, Nicole Mulholland; Noelle Cocoman, Lorraine McNulty, Faye Dunne; Naoimhin Daly, Kathryn Cananvan; Brid Murphy, Avril Kilkelly, Rebecca Mills; Lisa Cafferky, Fiona Morrissey, Catriona McGahan. Subs: Claire O’Sullivan for Brid Murphy 42, Patricia Marmion for Catherine Burnett 49, Clodagh Brennan for Catriona McGahan 58.
Antrim: Anna McCann; Saoirse Tennyson, Emma Kelly, Ciara Brown; Aine Tubridy, Stephanie Cochrane, Niamh Enright; Orla Corr, Jenny McCavanagh; Michelle Magee, Cathy Carey, Mariosa McGourty; Aoife Taggart, Anna Finnegan, Caitlin Taggart. Subs: Maria Hanna for Emma Kelly h/t. Abigail Carleton for Orla Corr 44, Orlaith Prenter for Caitlin Taggart 44, Eleanor Mallon for Anna Finnegan 48, Aoibhin Nic Ionnrachtaigh 55.
Referee: Dermot Love (Fermanagh).